Exclusive Interview: Jonathan is very,very incompetent – Sam Nda-Isaiah-Publisher, Leadership Newspapers ….confirms pressure to join presidential race
Q:You are 50 now.Could you reflect over the last 50 years,starting from yourself ,where you thought you could be and where you are now?
A:I was born May 1st 1960 in Minna.I lived with my grand parents up to the age of 5 and then I was taken to my parents in Kaduna where I started Primary school in 1968.I subsequently got admission into Government College Kaduna from 74 to 79 and then through JAMB then, we were the second set of JAMB-I got admission to University of Ife where I read Pharmacy for 4 years,graduated in 1983.Then first I did my internship in Minna…After I went for my NYSC at Ikere Ekiti
A:In today’s Ekiti state.Ikere Ekiti.It was part of Ondo state then.When I finished, I joined Pfizer Products Limited.I think I worked there till 1989 I think.And since then I have become an entrepreneur , an investor of sort.I started Leadership newspapers, a Confidential newsletter that is Leadership Confidential.I think I started that in 2003.In 2004,launched Leadership Newspaper then it was a weekly publication only on Sundays.On February 1st 2006,Leadership Newspaper became a daily newspaper with three publications,with daily publications up till Friday;Leadership Sunday and Leadership Weekend.That is where we are now.
Q:On your 50th birthday especially at that forum where you gathered all these prominent people. What exactly were your feelings , that 50 years on, is this where we are as a country? What were the kind of things going through your mind?
A:Of course especially if you travelled around the world,you will not be happy.That I have made very very clear in my write ups.Nigeria has been grounded by corruption, injustice and incompetence. When you look at the countries that we started out together especially those Asian countries;in fact even in Africa,look at Ghana.Ghana (they) have had the same kind of challenges.Ghana is now probably one of the most ordered countries.I don’t think there is any country like Nigeria.Now ,corruption is measured in trillions of Naira.Trillions .And that should not surprise us why there is nothing, why every citizen now will have to provide everything that the government is supposed to provide from buying your generator for electricity, sinking your own borehole,now we have to procure our very expensive security as you could see when you are entering here. Education has collapsed , so you must send your children to private schools, private secondary schools, private universities all at your expenses .And I am surprised that the government just thinks that you know..
Q:Compare Nigeria of the last 50 years with the Nigeria we have now and what we may likely to happenin the next 50 years?
A : I mean it is obvious ,I said it. When I was growing up , of course we had less money than we have now as a country.
Q:But that didn’t make it less happiness?
A: Iam even coming to that.In this country oil sold for over $100 .Even during Abacha’s time,IBB for instance;for all you would say against IBB. IBB built Abuja.How much was the international price of oil then which is like our main source of revenue .This government earned 4.6 trillion from taxes last year. Got almost a trillion from customs,not to talk about oil that was selling for over 100 dollars, benchmarked (in the budget) at 70 (dollars) I think.And yet as we speak now we (Nigeria) can’t pay salaries.They can’t pay salaries.It used to be that the government of the day was not able to implement their capital budget.Now even the current expenditure they are not able to.Some government employees have still not been paid.
Q:Why do you think we have gotten to this kind of depth?
A:It’s corruption .No magic, it’s corruption. We are talking about.. look ,this fuel subsidy thing, the whole story has not even come out.We hav been talking about one trillion. That one trillon was the amount of money stolen without a transaction attached to it.The actual thing I think is about N2.6 trillion.Under Obasanjo, they also held a record for corruption, it was between N250 billion to N300billion.Even that was corruption.
Q:But now it even looks like Obasanjo’s regime is much better?
A:No…as far as Iam concerned from Obasanjo to YarAdua to Jonathan they are all the same people.
Q:But the figures we are getting for subsidy are getting more alarm.Because even the House Committee said the earlier figures of between N250billion and N300 billion were acceptable
A:Yes.Obasanjo spent was it $15billion (I need to check the exact figure) to provide electricity,that is N2.5 or N2.6 trillion.Corruption under the PDP government is actually measured in trillions.That is what will explain to you why you can’t see anything they are doing.We are earning money.We have not even talked about the money that should even be coming to us from gas.
Q:How did we get into this trap?Is it a probem about the kind of leaders we get or how we select them?And what can we do about it?
A:All of that.I have always said our leadership recruitment process is faulty.I mean it is very simple and clear.Obasanjo can decide to choose a very sick man
Q:But we all knew that he(YarAdua ) was sick.How come that one person(Obasanjo) overpowered an entire country?
A:Yeah,that is what we should be looking at.Nigeria is not a normal state.Nigeria is not a normal country.
Q:Nigeria is not a normal country?
A:One person(OBJ) first overpowered his party.They were all grumbling,at least they grumbled to me,many of them in fact almost all of them and they couldn’t stop him.Why wouldn’t the PDP be able to stop him.Then he now came, did the election the way he liked,rigged it….
Q:..But Obasanjo’s kind of abnormality seems to be continuing.Because we have had YarAdua,now we are having Jonathan and even under Jonathan we can see a sitting governor stopped from standing for reelection because that was what the president wanted and it happened.The governor was stopped.That means we are still living in abnormal times.
A:There are many things that we need to change in Nigeria
A:.Everything.We cannot continue this way and you see all of them, from the president to the lowest guy in government,they just think that things will continue this way.The unfortunate thing is that when this whole thing starts crumbling down, hmn. There is no country that has sustained this kind of disorder.
Q;But somehow,we are seeing this disorder coming.MEND, the bombings in Abuja,Boko Haram even getting to suicide bombing and we are seeing it and it is like we are just a helpless country.And we have president, we have a national assembly etc
A:Yeah ,as we speak now we are helpless now, as you said.Let’s not deceive ourselves.We are helpless because we have a government that is totally incompetent.The first ever bombing in Abuja was under Jonathan and since then Abuja has become a centre of..I think there are more bombings here than Afghanistan and Iraq when you count them .And what did the president do with the MEND bombers of October 1st 2010.He actually came out to exonerate MEND.That it is not MEND that did it.
Q:And what do you make of Okah’s statement which was reported in the papers implying that President Jonathan was behind (two) bombing incidents
A:The truth is that I’d rather not believe Okah’s statement for my own sanity.I’m serious.For my own sanity,I’d rather not believe it because if you start to rationalize many things, you get confused. Especially because the president came out to say it is not MEND.And Okah said even from day one that the president’s people want some people to be blamed for it.They wanted northerners (to be blamed)
Q:He was specific in saying they called him urging him to blame it on northerners.
Q:That they were using it to play some kind of politics
Q:So what kind of politics is that?Have we degenerated to that level?
A:So that is why I said that I ‘d rather not believe Okah.It is so dangerous to believe it.It is so dangerous to believe.
A:It is so dangerous to believe that your president is involved in this thing.It is not politics.
Q:Why do you think so?
A:I would rather not believe it because what Okah has done was to accuse the president of treason.So I ‘d rather not believe.It is too dangerous to believe this.And I think we should just leave it at this .
Q:Our great General,I mean TY Danjuma said ordinarily he is an optimist but that things have gotten to a level that he is convinced that we are in trouble,our house is on fire.After the General’s speech ,it’s like everything is fading off,we are all sitting back as if things are normal again
A:What do you expect.He has done his part.He is known to always tell the truth and I far as Iam concerned, he was even mild,because I think he also believes that if you tell the whole truth there may be, but like he said he is interested in the polity.All of us want the polity to survive.
A:All of us want this thing to be resolved democratically because there is fear now that,look at what happened in the Arab countries.
A:Yes.It can happen here.
Q:But we are always told that our leaders can use ethnicity and religion and all that
A:Why didn’t they use it during the fuel subsidy strike.In fact they wanted to use it then.They encouraged certain people in South South to say no, no.It didn’t work.In fact the initial thing that was coming out from government was that this was a northern affair ,that the north was against(him) until when the south west including Lagos came out forcefully.They tried it.You can imagine the presidency saying that all this insecurity is because the north has promised to deal with the president.So the president is not even seeing it as failing in his job.(Pause)
Q:You were saying the president is not seeing it as failing in his job
A: Has not even seen it.The Constitution which he swore to uphold or which he swore to implement declares clearly that the welfare of the people and their security are the sole responsibility of the government.Clearly, it is not for us to buy all those(security) things you see outside.They are the sole responsibility of government.So if you are telling me that some people don’t like you because of (whatever),so why have you not dealt with those people.
Q:But it doesn’t appear like a regime that is capable of dealing with anything.The regime likes to sweep everything under the carpet and to move on.
A:This government,I have nothing personal against the president.I think that the president is a decent man,much more decent than Obasanjo and YarAdua ,I will say that.The president is not the the kind of guy, you knew what YarAdua was doing even as a sick man. But this president is incompetent.
A:Yes, that is it.This president is very ,very incompetent….Anytime there is bombing anywhere they will release the kind of statement that they released the previous time:’The government condemns it and we are looking into it’.And no imagination.Nothing has been done apart from voting about a trillion.You cannot see anything that from now on wards, this is the new thing.Even those that were arrested where are they.The MEND people that they arrested, the ones that first did the bombing what has happened to them apart from Okah that is being tried in another country.What has happened to them here.
Q:One of them MEND suspects even died in prison
A:What has happened? There is still death sentence in this country.And I support death sentence for people who kill.When was the last time anyone was executed in Nigeria for either armed robbery, terrorism or murder,when?And you just think that things will just change or things will fizzle out.
Q:What drastic measures do you expect the president to take?
A: I can’t tell him how to do his job.He is the one that is elected to be president.
Q:When you get the kind of statement like we received recently from the National Security Adviser(General Andrew Azazi) about the ruling party’s succession process fuelling this insecurity,what impression do you have?
A:I don’t want to believe.I don’t believe.That is rubbish.I don’t.It can be interpreted in two ways but that is not ..Look , the first bomb that was thrown in Abuja was by Niger Delta militants.They couldn’t have done it in support or against the PDP zoning policy ,no.There was Boko Haram during YarAdua’s time.YarAdua put them down.It only escalated due to the serial incompetent steps of (this) president…But of course,zoning or no zoning, that is PDP’s problem.Where there is injustice is in rigging of elections and bribing of judges to legitimize the elections and that is what has been happening.
Q:Obviously Boko Haram seems to have gotten more powerful than the government and they do what they want…How can we checkmate this situation?Because apparently government can’t do anything about this?
A:Look why won’t government?There are some things that only government can do.People have now become desperate and are calling for meetings ,what do we do about Boko Haram. There is nothing anybody can do about Boko Haram or MEND or other challenges.There are some things only government can do.When you don’t have ight in your house,government is supposed to provide and you pay.But when you don’t have ,you can get a generator.Inthis place now(Leadership newspapers headquarters) we have about five generators here.In fact, it is an IPP here…
Q:So only government can solve Boko Haram problem?
A;There are some things that only government can ..in fact security is the sole responsibility of government.
Q:Unfortunately Boko Haram is now attacking an threatening media houses.
Q:Don’t you think it was a wrong move?
A:Wrong move by Boko Haram ?(laughs)Which one is a right move by them?
Q:Trying to silence the voices of the people by bombing media houses.Of course any kind of killing is wrong,but targeting media establishments for terror is a source of oncern
A:Everything is a source of concern for everybody.As you said, killing people generally is a source of concern.Not just concern,I believe many people are going to leave this country.
Q:Many are going to leave?
A:Yeah.Why do you sound surprised.
Q:If if we leave who will rescue it
A:Yes I said many people will be leaving.I don’t know the point itwill get to that we all would have left.I don’t know that point but as I am speaking to you ,I have friends, in fact two have relocated to Dubai with their families in the last two weeks,my neighbours.You think with what happened in BUK now, some lecturers will not leave?You think they won’t leave?Until the government is able to (do something..)But you sound quite surprised.Nigeria is on fire and there is no leader,period!
Q:Sure the fact that the media is a target should be of primary concern to you?
A:It is of primary concern to us as media practitioners.I have been told that some reporters prefer to send their stories from outside.I mean the first instinct you are going to have now is to protect yourself.That is why you see all this protection that we are doing here which is not even enough as far as I am concerned.
Q:Let’s look at the way government appears to be handling this House of Reps Probe of fuel subsidy.Now government is giving us the impression that it is not a serious matter.
A:Exactly.Because, I have just said,let’s even use the N1 trillion.Let’s leave the N2.6trillion.On trillion naira has been stolen and the government is not outraged?The president is not angry? And they are saying ‘oh no,we will have to,I mean we don’t believe in this.’What is there not to believe.Is it not true? Money was taken out of the CBN confirmed by the CBN governor,confirmed by the minister of finance, confirmed by the minister of petroleum,except the amount they didn’t agree on, but we know. What do they want to check?Let me tell you the truth;This is just basic common sense.It is impossible for that kind of money,one trillion, two trillion to be stolen and the principal officers of the state would not be aware ,it is absolutely impossible.
Q:Now, they are trying to cover it up?
A:Let’s see how they do that.
Q:As you turned 50, we are now seeing Nigeria on fire and most of us are worried about the future of Nigeria.
A:There is hope.I believe there is hope.You know why?
Q:I was shocked by your reply that there is hope:Personally Iam worried
A:If you have been following my speeches and write ups,I have been consistent on that .Let me tell you why there is hope for Nigeria.First,I think that Nigeria must be one of the wealthiest countries in the world potentially.The money that is being stolen now that is not even the wealth..The real wealth of this country has not been touched,because it requires work to bring them out and these people are lazy.They are stealing the money as if Nigeria is a 90 day transaction,it will soon finish and then they are not interested.Oil is not even our main wealth potential.They are two:Agriculture and Gas.In fact there are strategic documents that have said that Nigeria is an oil province with little oil.So even all this oil we have and alot of it has not even been tapped.You know that all the zones of the country have basins that have either gas or oil or both.They have not been tapped.That is if it is oil or gas that you want.Our soil is one, I mean this Gum Arabic that keeps Sudan grows in states like Jigawa,Borno and Yobe..So when it is time, when we get a responsible government and we will ,because ,what is happening now is not sustainable.It is just that I don’t know how it will end.I pray it ends through the ballot…Now we don’t have democracy,we don’t have..This is not democracy.But as I said,I don’t know how it will end but this will end because it is not sustainable.Because we can’t be stealing trillions every time.Obasanjo stole two or three trillion in just one sector .This one steals trillions and nothing is going on.No water, no light, no school.And then you now remove fuel subsidy to punish the people again.Even God will be angry with you.It will end but Idon’t have that power of clairvoyance to tell you this is how it will end.But I know it will end because this is not sustainable.And when it ends, Nigeria will rise from (the) ashes.Even now as we speak,and one of the reasons why I think it will end is when you speak to the youths of this country..they are very angry.The elite of this country;even the way people came out during the fuel subsidy strike,you know there is now an elite consensus at least on that issue.All we need is that elite consensus.We are getting to that.When you see people talking, they are talking the same thing.Let anyone try to rig the 2015 elections and we will see what happens from there.
Q:I want to touch on this issue.It appears in my view, that the Northern Nigeria is now rudderless.This Boko Haram violence,aside from being above government, even the leaders of the North cannot control it.That is why when I hear some people say northern leaders should talk to Boko Haram, they don’t seem to get the fact.
A:But who knows Boko Haram?Who knows them?It’s true.If I know them I can also talk to them.Iam sure you will be able to talk to some of them if you know them.I don’t know them.That is one. Two, yes, I agree with you that the North is not the same North.I mean there is leadership vacuum but even that will be solved.That is being solved also.That is being discussed everywhere.You know when there is a problem and it is being discussed ,then you know it is fine.You are right… Some of the things have been taken for granted for a long time.You can’t rig election against,for instance let’s take a state like Sokoto or Kano or Jigawa or Katsina where 98 or 90% of the people are the same,they are muslims,they are Hausa -Fulani.It is not even Christian/ Muslim or Ijaw and Hausa. No, no,let’s even take Plateau now even among a Berom.When a Berom man rigs an election against a Berom or Hausa man rigs election against Hausa man and you think that there will be peace? And then you will be surprised that there is no peace.Anywhere there is injustice, there will be no peace. And that is one of the three things I named initially,injustice. Our problem in the North is injustice against ourselves. And they start from elections and then corruption.The governors steal money.Governors who got scholarships enough to take them throughout the year,what the governors now give as scholarship is funny.And then the rest, nobody knows where it is.There was a governor who used state coffers to pay for an oil bloc for himself….But it will all pass.Iam very optimistic that it will.
Q:May be you should do a review of the media.It is also fair to do a participant observation.So, it is not an unfair question.How has the media fared?
A:The media is a part of the Nigerian superstructure .Of course,whatever affects Nigeria affects the media.There is corruption in the media.But don’t also forget ,no matter what you say, it is the media that killed the Third Term Plot, it is the media that keeps talking about corruption because you don’t hear that in the judiciary because they are major participants.The media as a whole has done better than the other sectors but they too are plagued by the same problems that plague the state.It is mainly corruption and incompetence also.
Q;There is this perception within some circles especially with the pomp and ceremony over your 50th birthday celebration that Sam Nda Isaiah is going into politics.And that he is probably going to take a shot at the 2015 presidency.
A:I have also heard that.There is no doubt that it has been broached.I will not tell you that it has not been broached,I won’t say that .But it has nothing to do with the birthday celebration.In fact, it started long before that .And it is not as if decisions have been taken or whatever.
Q:Let m put it this way.Are you thinking of joining the presidential race?
A:I have answered this question five times.This will be the sixth time and I will answer it.I will answer it same way, taking a cue from the president.Iam not thinking about it yet(Laughter).Let me put it this way on a serious note.If Iam going to make a foray into politics as you said,I have to see a very clear path.I will not just go in and just become a part of the statistics of what has happened.I have to see a clear path of the values that I will add that will deepen the democracy, that can bring out the desired result that people are talking about.If I don’t see a clear path and of course ,it won’t be me.It won’t be Sam doing it, no .It has to be a movement
Q:..Are there people asking you to join the presidential race?
A:Of course.There are people that have said it.
Q:To join the race?
A:Of course, I thought that is even clear.I has even been written in the papers.The Economist has written it and somebody else has written it.So it is not a thing of me saying ,people have been,people that I don’t even know.That is not the issue now because it is not what people are saying that you will do.But what do you want to do?Of course, Iam sure they are saying it because of the voice I have lent to this very very serious, this thing that is keeping our country.There is something they must have seen,but even then,what do we want as Nigerians.Are we ready?Are we now going to insist that elections must be free and fair?Are we ready for it in 2015.If we are fine.And we have to ..unfortunately,I don’t know whether we really have to suffer first before we know that government is so serious.Government is so serious that you don’t just get angry that somebody has rigged election.If they rig election, you are very sure we didn’t vote for this guy,no he won’t be president or governor.
Q:Is it worth it?Getting ambitious to become Nigeria’s president,is it worth it?
A: Very, very good question.Very, very very good question.Is it worth it?And that is the kind of.. is it worth it?One of my friends came also the same way, but he came with a different thing.He said Sam, I have been told that this person came,not (just)anybody,I mean serious people came to say this. He said Sam, do you want that kind of useless job? Because I know that for you it is not the way other people are doing it.For you, it is something you are going there with a particular kind of mindset that is different. Is that how you want to live your life? We laughed in this office.We laughed and laughed and laughed. And I totally understand what he is saying and it is a point to ponder.On the other hand it is not just worth it, not just as Sam now.Let’s even think of decent people.If decent people think it is not worth ,it is not worth it, I m taking myself out ,assuming that I eventually think that I have better way to spend my life than that.And decent people think that it is not worth it, don’t you think that you and I would have to start thinking of where our family will live,where our children will live?It won’t be this country because if we live this thing like this, it will get worse. Nigeria is already a failed state.Forget about what..What is a failed state? I have just told you,what does government do for you.No.Nothing.Murderers can appear from anywhere and do what they like and go away.They do even have to run.They do it in the afternoon.They don’t give you electricity(power supply).When they build a road, they build it ten times the price.So what do they do for you?It is a failed state but even with this,it will get worse,much worse.
You asked a question which I want to modify the answer I gave.You said this is worse than Obasanjo’s regime.It is worse in a sense .Obasanjo was just a crook.He was a thief.A president who will as president , he would go and register a company with other people and give NITEL to the company and give two oil blocs to the Hilton Hotel.Or in fact using two point something trillion to provide electricity .And those things .. Or shielding some thugs that were kidnapping a governor.That was Obasanjo, just a thug, a crook.But you could not say Obasanjo was not competent.Obasanjo knew government.He only used it to his advantage and stole as much as he could. Now, this government I have not yet done the analysis to know which government has stolen more.Using the fuel subsidy alone is not enough.For the fuel subsidy,I think this government will take the medal.But we have not looked at the others.But let’s even leave Obasanjo and Jonathan out.It is better to have a thief as your president who is competent, than to have an incompetent president.Do you know why?
Q:Meaning it is better to have Obasanjo’s style than to have..
A:No,well Iam also being careful not to personalize it and not to say that Obasanjo was good in anyway.Don’t forget, Obasanjo had more problems or more issues ,Obasanjo should even be blamed for what is happening today.
Q:You don’t want to give Obasanjo any credit at all?
A:Which credit? What did he leave better?When he came as president and when he left,what sector did he leave better?Iam serious.That should form part of our interview.Forget about what his people are saying or his apologists.What did he leave better?If you push them to the wall,they will tell you GSM. What nonsense!How much did they put in GSM.People brought their money and GSM is a phenomenon that was beyond anybody’s competence or no competence.Even in North Korea, there is GSM.So in ungoverned areas of the world there is GSM.So they should stop that talk about GSM.
Q:So back to this issue of whether it is worth the trouble for anybody to aspire to Nigerian presidency..
A: I have answered it.I said it is a question somebody should address.I said it is not a question that is out of place.But in answering it,people that are asking whether it is worth the trouble are saying in spite of everything, why do you want to compound your life by doing that kind of thing? On the other hand if you now want to think of it that okay,leave out Sam ,it is not about me now.We are looking for a new direction and we are looking for a competent person who is also decent.And there are so many people .In this country, there are many,many people.There probably in thousands of very good people that can be president of this country, very, very good in all the zones.
Q:But what we always hear is Buhari, Babangida,Atiku.Why is it ?
Q:Isn’t this also part of the things leading to frustration we are having ,that these same persons have remained on the scene,they are not giving way?
A:No it is because elections have not been free and fair.If elections have been free and fair,some of them would have even finished their terms..Elections have not been free and fair.Obasanjo came in through an election that was adjudged to be acceptable.Not 100% free and fair but it was…
Q:The first election?
A:Yes, the one that Abdulsalami did.He (Obasanjo)rigged the second one and attempted to rig a third term for himself.But he is out.But if elections are okay, look at Ghana.Opposition they will come and go,come and go.And them you have people really contesting primaries and winning elections,losing,some by it depends on just 50 votes and it’s acceptable.It is accepted because it was free and fair.
Q:You said Obasanjo didn’t leave anything good in any sector?
A:I said you should tell me one because I can’t see.In 1999 what did he improve?Abacha’s economy was by far better than Obasanjo’s own, by far.Do you agree with me on that?
Q:The facts are obvious
A: Fine.And let’s look at security.Under Obasanjo, so many political assassinations,some were even traceable to according to Wole Soyinka, he said there was a nest of killers within the PDP.So many within the PDP.Was there a single armed robbery in Abuja during Abacha’s time.Let’s even take Abuja, Abuja that is now the place of free for all bombing.
Q:But we had state sponsored killings going on then.
A:Yeah, exactly, but let’s take it one by one.There was state sponsored killing, at least we knew of Kudirat and Ibru escaped.
Q a (Adesanya)
A:And also the journalists which were as you aid state said state sponsored.Were there no state sponsored killings under Obasanjo?Who killed Marshal Harry?Who killed Bola Ige? I don’t have the answers(Laughs) You know! But people are entitled to their views on this.
Q:Well this people have had their day.Obasanjo has had his day,YarAdua has had his day, he is gone.Jonathan is having his day now . It is now about our future..
A:That is why we should also think about our future.We should make sure, all of us.You, me everybody must ensure that elections are free and fair.We can enforce it.We can.No clown caN come an bring policemen and soldiers to shoot us on election day.Government is so important.As you can see now, government is so important to our wellbeing that we can’t just accept what is given to us.We must choose it.And when we make a mistake in our choice, we should be able to remove that choice we have made in the next election.Yeah,we don’t have that now…